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ISLAMABAD: Breast, cervical and ovarian cancers remain the leading cause of mortality among women in Pakistan. The increasing burden of women’s cancers was discussed with Azra Pechuho, the Sindh Health Minister, during the launch of Roche and Greenstar’s pilot project that aims to design, develop and demonstrate scalable service delivery models that improve access to screening, early detection and treatment of such cancers.

The project, which is starting from Karachi and Lahore, will target women of different age groups and stages of patient journey, by providing door-to-door awareness, free of cost screening and guidance for timely referral options by trained doctors at Greenstar clinics.

Azra Pechuho, Sindh Health Minister, while formally launching the project said, “Providing standard of care treatment for Women’s Cancers is a priority for the Sindh government. We are proud of the Roche and Greenstar collaboration for raising awareness, early detection facilities and timely treatment of Breast, Cervical and Ovarian Cancers for women from the underserved areas of Safoorah Goth.”

Speaking at the occasion, Hafsa Shamsie, the Managing Director of Roche Pharma said, “Women face barriers at every stage of their disease journey, and this initiative is part of Roche Pakistan’s broader vision of prioritizing ‘Women’s Health’ by addressing the disparities that prohibit women from receiving appropriate care.”

“We aspire to provide innovative healthcare and play a transformative role in all stages of female cancers, from initial screening through support during treatment that paves the way for addressing the unmet needs of women cancer patients,” said Hafsa Shamsie further.

Dr Syed Azizur Rab, CEO Greenstar Social Marketing said at the occasion, “We are very proud to partner with Roche in implementing the first of its kind community outreach programme where women in catchment’s areas will receive free screening services and referred for further assessment”.

Breast, Cervical and Ovarian Cancers are the most common form of cancers among women in Pakistan, and early diagnosis makes these cancers treatable.

Pakistan has the highest incidence of Breast Cancer in Asia, with 25,000 cases in 2020 and a mortality rate of above 50%. Cervical Cancer is the second most common cancer in Pakistani women. Each year, around 5000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, with 3197 reported deaths and a mortality rate of above 63%. Similarly, 4500 Pakistani women are diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer with a mortality rate of 70%. This high prevalence stems from a lack of awareness, stigma, unaffordability, inadequate infrastructure, and distance to screening sites.

Cancer puts a huge financial burden on the families while affecting them both emotionally and psychologically. The initiative aims to align the stakeholders to increase awareness about women’s cancers, the importance of early detection and availability of affordable treatment.

The screening services will be provided at Greenstar’s Safoora Goth Clinic in Karachi, which was formally inaugurated by Dr Talib Lashari Technical Advisor, Sindh Population Welfare Department.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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